Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Strained Schools Face Bleak Future

Districts Foresee Budget Cuts, Teacher Layoffs,
and a Slowing of Education Reform Efforts

Today, the Center on Education Policy released a report describing the fiscal condition of school districts for school year 2010-11 and the anticipated condition for school year 2011-12.

Drawing on information gathered through a survey of a nationally representative sample of over 450 school districts, this report examines the extent to which federal stimulus and Education Jobs funds made up for district funding shortfalls, and the types of cuts being made to balance district budgets.

The survey results indicate that in order to compensate for lost funding, districts are cutting staff – including teachers – and services and are slowing the progress on education reform.

The report, Strained Schools Face Bleak Future: Districts Foresee Budget Cuts, Teacher Layoffs, and a Slowing of Education Reform Efforts, is posted on the CEP Web site and can be downloaded free-of-charge.

Many school districts had to cope with shrinking budgets this past school year, but the effects of these cuts were cushioned to some extent by the availability of federal economic stimulus money. In 2009 and 2010, school districts received about $80 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). These funds were intended to stave off teacher layoffs, stabilize declining state and local education budgets, and blunt other negative effects of the economic downturn for schools. In the summer of 2010, districts received an additional $10 billion through the Education Jobs legislation to save or create education jobs for school year 2010-11.

Now that the ARRA and Education Jobs funds are nearly depleted, what do school districts expect their budgets to look like for school year 2011-12? This report by the Center on Education Policy (CEP), an independent nonprofit organization, describes the fiscal condition of school districts for school year 2010-11 and the anticipated fiscal condition for school year 2011-12, the extent to which ARRA and Education Jobs funds are making up for funding shortfalls, and the types of cuts being made to balance district budgets. Our data were drawn from responses to a survey administered to a nationally representative sample of school districts in the winter and spring of 2011. This is the second CEP report on the financial status of school districts and their implementation of ARRA; the first was released in July 2010. Two other CEP reports have addressed state fiscal conditions and state ARRA implementation.

Seven key findings are evident from the district survey data:

  • A grim situation is expected to worsen in the coming school year. A large majority of all school districts, about 70%, experienced funding cuts in school year 2010-11. An even greater proportion of districts, about 84%, anticipate funding cuts in school year 2011-12.
  • Districts are compensating by cutting jobs. About 85%of the districts with funding decreases in school year 2010-11 cut jobs for teachers or other staff. Approximately 61% of the districts that anticipate funding shortfalls for school year 2011-12 have plans to cut staff, but this percentage could go higher because at the time of our survey, many districts had not yet decided where to cut.
  • No type of district appears to be immune from budget reductions or staff cuts. Shrinking budgets and cuts in education jobs have affected and will continue to affect all types of districts—city, suburban, town, and rural. 
  • Funding cuts are hampering progress on school reform. About 66% of the districts with budget shortfalls in 2010-11 responded to these cuts by either slowing progress on planned reforms or postponing or stopping reform initiatives. Slightly more than half (roughly 54%) of the districts that anticipate shortfalls in 2011-12 expect to slow progress on reforms or postpone or stop reform initiatives.
  • Most districts have reached the dreaded “funding cliff” with no ARRA funds left to help ease funding shortfalls in school year 2011-12. ARRA and Education Jobs funds have helped to cushion some of the shortfalls in district budgets, but most districts have exhausted these funds. Less than one-third (about 30%) of the nation’s school districts expect to have any ARRA funds available for school year 2011-12.
  • Most of the districts that received extra funds through ARRA for the federal Title I and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs used at least some of these funds to save or create teaching or other staff jobs. Roughly 69% of districts that received ARRA Title I funds and about 83% of districts that received ARRA IDEA funds used a portion of these funds to save or create jobs. A majority of the districts that received ARRA Title I or IDEA funds also used these monies for staff professional development and for supplies and equipment.
  • Districts believe they are better off for having received ARRA and Education Jobs funding. About 89% of districts that received any ARRA or Education Jobs funds indicated they are better off for having received those funds than they otherwise would have been.

New JCPS superintendent has not signed contract yet

When I was asked by a long-time KSN&C friend (and a JCPS board member) to vet the finalists for the superintendency, I didn't have time to do it justice. I dug back a few years, but could not do the work I felt was necessary to make any definitive statements about the finalists.

Neither candidate presented major blemishes. Both seemed undistinguished in tough positions, but capable enough. They were given the OK by their state associations.

The passed over candidate had a Sally Kellerman-in-M*A*S*H kind of vibe, but had held the top post in her district and suffered the slings and arrows of a long series of Draconian budget cuts, courtesy of the Michigan legislature - or should I say Wall Street?

Donna Hargens, the successful candidate, seemed to lack leadership. She did not seem to lack the ability to do whatever the board of education told her to do, including the provision of special treatment for board members and their children.

About the time I suggested the JCPS board might want to pass on Hargens, they hired her. Or, at least, they're trying to hire her. Now, comments from the board chair have renewed my concerns. 

Did the JCPS board really want a leader, or a follower?

This from WDRB:
New JCPS superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens has yet to sign a contract with the district. School Board President Steve Imhoff sat down for an interview with WDRB in the Morning Tuesday, and said her contract is still being worked out.

Hargens will move to Louisville from North Carolina in just a few days. Her first day of work is August 1st, just two weeks before the first day of school.

Hargens has already faced criticism for avoiding questions about the student assignment plan, but Imhoff says what happens to the plan is up to the board: "She as our new superintendent will advise us as to her thoughts, but it is the board that ultimately makes decisions about what the plan is and what changes we will make."

By law, the district has to name an interim superintendent. Dr. Freda Merriweather will take over for Sheldon Berman July 1st.

Rich Home Environment Can Close Readiness Gap for Poor Children

This from Ed Week:
Educators looking to eliminate the school readiness gap for children in poverty can look to how parents play with and encourage their youngest children, according to a study published in an online preview this month in Child Development.

By the age of 2, differences in a low-income child's home-learning environment can make the difference between whether he or she will be considered ready for school or labeled at risk at the start of kindergarten two years later.

New York University researchers Eileen Rodriguez Bandel and Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda studied 1,852 children whose families participated at 17 sites where the federal Early Head Start Evaluation Study was taking place. Only about half the families received services through the program, which provides educational training and support for parents in poverty. The researchers analyzed the home environments, including tapes of mother-child interactions, parent surveys, and videos of the home, around the children's first, second, and third birthdays and again at age 5, just before they started kindergarten.

At each age, Ms. Bandel and Ms. Tamis-LeMonda looked at three measures of the home environment which had been previously associated with later school readiness: literacy activities, such as the frequency at which parents and toddlers read books, told stories, and sang nursery rhymes together; maternal engagement, including how well mothers responded to their child's needs and cues and tried to stimulate the child's cognitive and language development; and the availability of educational toys, such as books, role-playing toys like dolls and stuffed animals, musical instruments, blocks, and art supplies. Those areas were coded and combined into a single composite measure of home enrichment...

School News from Around Kentucky

Former teacher will go to prison:  A fromer Bullitt County teacher of the year will serve the next three years in prison....Timothy Lands was sentenced Thursday by Bullitt Circuit Judge Rodney Burress to serve the next three years in prison on the charge of sexual abuse. He will also be on the sex offender registry for the next 20 years. Attorney Brian Butler requested probation for his client; however, Burress agreed with prosecutor Michael Mann and the victim’s mother and denied that request. The mother said granting probation would be a “slap on the wrist” and would send the wrong message about teachers and students. “Tim Lands let us all down,” said the mother. “I wish her (daughter’s) sentence was only three years.” She explained that the family accepted the plea agreement for three years to spare the teenager the agony of going through a trial. She did oppose any probation as Lands robbed her daughter of her high school experience. It also robbed the family. Instead of sharing experiences such as the first boyfriend, the senior prom and graduation, she said her daughter had to move out of state and receive her GED. She couldn’t face the pressure or the shame of staying at her own high school. (Pioneer News by way of KSBA)

Education, health chiefs urge boards to adopt 100% tobacco-free policies everywhere tied to K-12:  Kentucky’s commissioners of education and public health are calling on all 174 local boards of education to implement policies completely banning the use of any tobacco products on school property, in district vehicles and at school-sponsored events by anyone of any age. In a June 16 letter to the state’s school superintendents, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Public Health Commissioner William Hacker urged them “to pass and implement this 100% TFS (Tobacco-Free School) policy as a district policy. It’s the right thing to do for the health of your schools and communities.” (KSBA)

New education group starts by putting focus on No Child Left Behind's effects on Ky.:  A new group with the goal of bolstering education in Kentucky used its first meeting to emphasize how changes in the federal No Child Left Behind law might affect Kentucky. The group, calling itself “Kentucky Leads the Nation,” is made up of 10 state Senators, including Republican Senate President David Williams, 10 state representatives, school district superintendents, teacher union representatives and education think tanks, with an early goal of discussing and setting Kentucky’s education priorities. (CN/2)

Congress too split to revise No Child Left Behind, Rep. John Yarmuth says:  Saying that Congress it too dysfunctional to come to an agreement, U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth said Monday he doubts the federal No Child Left Behind law will be revamped anytime soon. Speaking at the “Kentucky Leads the Nation” roundtable in Shelby County, where educators and policy makers are working to help the state’s school districts navigate federal education law and challenges, Yarmuth said he can’t imagine the Republicans and Democrats coming together on the issue this close to a presidential election. That means it is likely that Kentucky education officials will be relying on the federal Department of Education to grant a waiver if they don’t want to continue offering both state and federal proficiency tests to students. (C-J)

KDE Launches New Toolkit to Improve Advising:  A new advising toolkit will help districts keep students in school, better prepare them for postsecondary options and increase the number of students that are college/career ready. The toolkit, Your Future Ahead, is available to all school districts free of charge. It was developed by staff at the Kentucky Department of Education. “College and career advising is a vital component of KDE’s persistence to graduation strategy and college- and career-readiness plan,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. The advising toolkit is designed to help middle and high schools develop and improve their mentoring and advising programs. (KDE)

Woodford schools lax in minority hiring, promotion:  Civil rights activist Malcolm X cautioned, "If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything." It is time for some minority citizens of Woodford County to embrace this sentiment and demand answers from the Woodford County Board of Education about its incredibly low minority employment rate. African-Americans, Hispanics and Asian employees are primarily custodial or cafeteria workers, bus drivers or para-professionals. In the past 30 years, there have only been a handful of minority administrators, teachers and head coaches. Minority hiring for the system is four percent, compared to the county's 15.0 percent minority population, according to the U.S. Census. This disparity hurts Woodford County by making it a less appealing place to live and undermines efforts to prepare children for an increasingly diverse world. (Op Ed in H-L)

Bath County School Board chairman faces possible removal: The state Office of Education Accountability has asked the Kentucky Department of Education to consider removing the chairman of the Bath County School Board because of several issues, including alleged violations of the state Open Meetings Law. A decision is unlikely until August. Meanwhile, in a related matter, Bath County Schools Superintendent Nancy Hutchinson has sued the Bath County Board of Education, seeking to overturn a board vote this spring to essentially terminate Hutchinson's contract, effective Thursday. A hearing in that case is scheduled for Thursday morning in Bath Circuit Court. Both developments are symptoms of ongoing disputes between Hutchinson and some board members dating back a number of years. The latest round came earlier this month, when the education accountability office — which investigates education complaints — issued a report detailing several findings of fact against board chairman Bill Boyd, including alleged violations of the state Open Meetings Law. The statute essentially prohibits doing public business in secret. (H-L)

Farris is right leader for our schools:  If there was any doubt about what kind of education leader Elaine Farris is, the fact that she was a recent finalist for superintendent of the state’s second largest school district should be reassuring. The only one of the final three I don’t know is Tom Shelton, the Daviess County superintendent the Fayette County board chose to succeed longtime leader Stu Silberman. But having observed Lu Young, Jessamine County’s superintendent, and Farris, who is in her second year as Clark’s leader, I know that either of these women also would have been an excellent choice. In the case of Farris, it’s hard to imagine a candidate having better credentials for the position. (Winchester Sun)

Robinson, Babbage hit it big as authors

"If you like politics, you'll like my books." 
"But if you don't like politics, I kill politicians."
--Rick Robinson

I was glad to see that Don McNay did what I should have done. Here's a little more shameless promotion, this time on behalf of a friend (and third semi-cousin twice removed) and a former collegue.

This from Don McNay in the Winchester Sun:

My longtime friend, Rick Robinson, just received a “six-figure” option for the movie rights to his novel “Manifest Destiny.” Rick writes political thrillers. His third book is the one that hit the jackpot.

Another longtime friend, Dr. Keen Babbage, just released his 13th book, “The Dream And The Reality of Teaching.” That’s a pretty good feat, since Keen has been battling cancer and spent a lot of the past year in chemotherapy. He is now cancer-free and back to teaching. It has been a struggle.

Rick, one of the funniest people I have ever met, draws on his decades as a political insider in Washington and Kentucky, and writes gripping novels that entertain. Keen writes books that draw on his expertise in education and life.
Rick is a successful author in the conventional sense. A lot of people talk about writing a novel, but few ever do it. With his first book, “The Maximum Contribution,” Rick achieved the rarified title of “author.” It was a good book. “Sniper Bid,” his second, was even better.

When “Manifest Destiny” came out, my review in the Huffington Post said that “‘Manifest Destiny’ is where ‘The West Wing’ meets ‘The Bourne Identity.’”

It looks like Hollywood shares my opinion. Businesses don’t hand out six-figure checks unless they plan on making far more in return.

What separates Rick from other authors is his enthusiasm and work ethic. He will go anywhere, anytime, to do a book signing. He has built up a strong and growing audience.

Rick does this while maintaining a full-time law practice and remaining a political insider who has his finger on the pulse of politics in both Kentucky and nationally.

Some writers give Rick a backhanded compliment in praising his marketing skills and not properly noting his writing ability.

As the people who promoted New Coke, the Edsel, or can tell you, a great marketing campaign is useless unless you have a great product.

Rick can really write. He’s winning awards right and left. Although critical success does not always lead to commercial success, (e.g., KISS has never won a Grammy but has sold more records than many who have), Rick has both going for him.

Unless something dramatic changes in Hollywood, I doubt that they will be making “The Dream and The Reality of Teaching,” or any of Keen’s other books, into a movie. I don’t think Keen cares.

Keen is totally devoted to the teaching profession. He uses his books to instruct and inspire others.

His attitude reminds me of the wisdom of Thomas More in the movie, “A Man For All Seasons.”

More encouraged one of his political assistants to become a teacher. The assistant said, “Who would know me if I were a teacher?” More replied, “You would know, your students would know, and God would know. Not a bad audience.”

Many of Keen’s students have told me that he is an outstanding and inspiring teacher. One of the things that kept him motivated during his battle with cancer was the goal of getting back to the classroom and making an impact.

Through his writing, Keen allows the world outside his classroom to hear his insights about education and his teaching skills.

That is not a bad audience either.

I’ve been friends with Rick and Keen for more than 30 years. I knew them before they ever thought about writing a book. I’ve read most, if not all, of their books along the way.

In the way that Rick is capturing commercial and critical success and Keen is impacting the education profession, both have one thing in common:

They have “hit it big” as authors.

Quick Hits

Updated AP science courses focus on inquiry-based learning:  The new curriculum for Advanced Placement science courses will require teachers to focus more on student-centered activities and inquiry-based learning. To implement those changes, teachers in an Illinois district attended training sessions conducted by AP consultants. Under the new teaching method, students will act as scientists, they say, with teachers asking questions for students to research and answer on their own. (The Herald News)

N.Y. union suit claims new reviews focus too much on state tests:  The New York State United Teachers union is suing a state board over the passage of a new teacher-evaluation system that would base up to 40% of evaluations on state test scores. The teachers union argues that state test scores are to count for 20% of a teacher's evaluation, with an additional 20% based on other assessments determined by districts and unions through collective bargaining. The move could derail plans for districts to begin using the new evaluations, a change enacted last year to help that state secure $700 million in Race to the Top funds. (The Wall Street Journal)

Summer field trips help history teachers explore subject matter:  A federally funded, four-year program is helping some history teachers use their time off to enrich their knowledge through field trips focused on events such as the Civil War and the Progressive Era. Recently, 18 teachers visited Alabama to learn more about the state's role in the civil rights movement. "The field study trip ... was like a visit into a scrapbook," said Donna Sack, the Teaching American History project director. (The Naperville Sun)

Tennessee students create online civics curriculum:  A group of high-school students in Knox County, Tenn., have created the Citizens' Guide to Problem Solving, an online curriculum for teaching students how to solve problems in their communities. The students, who are members of a local Youth Action Council, worked with the public policy center at the University of Tennessee to create the three-lesson plan for use in local government or civics courses and can be adapted for use in other regions. (The Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Law allowing charter schools passes in Maine after long battle:  Maine could create as many as 10 charter schools in the next 10 years -- the first in the state -- if Gov. Paul LePage signs a bill passed by lawmakers, as is expected. Republican control of the legislature and the governor's office buoyed the bill, which aims to encourage innovation and choices. The previous Democratic governor pushed for charters, but was not supported by the Democratic-controlled state house. Opponents argue the bill will hurt underfunded public schools. (Bangor Daily News)

With data counting more, principals want students in class on last days:  New York City's focus on data, which includes average attendance, has changed some administrators' attitude toward students skipping days at the end of the school year. This year, principals tried tactics such as waiting to give out test scores or delaying eighth-grade graduation until the last day of school. "Whether it's Jan. 26 or March 26 or June 26, a day of attendance is a day of attendance," principal Brett Kimmel said. (The New York Times)

Schools are providing alternative ways to earn credits:  More New York City high-school students are earning credits toward graduation through alternative means, including online courses and programs created by nonprofit groups. One group offers free sailing lessons to students, who can use the course to earn science or physical-education credit. Principals at each of the city's 400 high schools -- which are facing shortages of space and staffing -- determine which courses can be used to earn credits. (The New York Times)

Many teachers in Fla. county support Gates-funded evaluation system:  Teachers in Hillsborough County, Fla., are wrapping up their first year under a $100 million evaluation system funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and many teachers say they received valuable support and advice from peer mentors and evaluators. However, a smaller number of others disagreed, saying the system was used to target teachers for dismissal. District officials say they expect teacher ratings to drop across the board for the first year of the program. (St. Petersburg Times)

Trends and ideas for educators:  Edutopia community manager Betty Ray lists in this blog post several emerging trends and tools in educational technology discussed at this year's EduBloggerCon. Among them, the "flipped" classroom has students accessing content outside the classroom through a video or podcast while teachers use lesson time for projects and collaboration. The multimedia wiki Qwiki can be used for research, while Stencyl can be used to help students learn computer programming and create their own video games, she writes. (Edutopia)

Districts' financial means dictate summer-school offerings:  Budget cuts have shut down summer-school programs in low-income areas in San Jose, Calif., while programs in more affluent areas remain open. Students in areas where parents can afford to pay for fee-based recreation and enrichment programs learn about public speaking or "The Science of Hollywood." Meanwhile, schools in poor neighborhoods are limited to a selection of classes paid for with grant funding that target remediation and achievement among specific groups of struggling students. (San Jose Mercury News)

Idaho Threatens To Defy 'No Child Left Behind'

I love these little rebellions. They work right up to the minute the feds threaten to keep their money.

This from NPR:
A rebellion over "No Child Left Behind" has begun, and the starting point is Idaho. Many states say they need emergency relief from the controversial education law's requirements, or a huge number of decent schools will face sanctions. Idaho says it will just ignore the law this year.

Under No Child Left Behind, Idaho is supposed to identify a growing number of schools as failing because they can't get enough students to pass a state test.

Idaho schools superintendent Tom Luna says he just won't do it.

"We're not going to identify more schools as 'needs improvement,' because that is not the correct way to identify them," Luna says.

Every year, the law's targets keep rising, Luna says. Many schools that have made great strides in improving achievement still fall below that bar as it floats upward. Congress was expected to make adjustments, to give schools credit for their progress. But Luna says that in Washington, D.C., the law has become a political football in a gridlocked Congress, "and we're not going to be a pawn in those games."

Now, technically, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan could punish Idaho if the state refuses to obey the law. But Duncan may have encouraged this reaction by announcing recently that he would grant waivers to states that could not meet the law's standards. Duncan said he had no choice because Congress has failed to renew the law.

What Duncan probably had in mind was the reaction from Kentucky: Rather than rebelling, state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is respectfully asking Duncan to cut him some slack. But he's proposing to give something in return...
Hat tip to the Commish

Shameless Self-promotion

This from the Kentucky Historical Register:

Abraham Lincoln and Kentucky, a special issue of the Register, Volume 106, Numbers 3-4 (Summer/Autumn 2008). Learn more about obtaining your copy.

Kentucky and the Contested Legacy of Jefferson Davis, a special issue of the Register, Volume 107, Number 2 (Spring 2009). Learn more about obtaining your copy.

Coming Soon!

The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 
Volume 109, Number one (Winter 2011)

Bert Combs and the Council for Better Education: Catalysts for School Reform by Richard E. Day

Given the reality of our ongoing concern about the state of public education in Kentucky, articles on this topic enjoy a kind of perennial relevance. Richard Day presents an instructive essay on the foundations of modern education reform. Committed reformers, including former governor Bert T. Combs, were able to end the scandal of unequal funding and make possible the passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act in 1990.

“And Shall thy Flowers Cease to Bloom?” The Shakers’ Struggle to Preserve Pleasant Hill, 1862 -1910 by David Marsich
The Shakers enjoyed a vital presence in Kentucky in the period of religious ferment following the Second Great Awakening. Over time, particularly after the Civil War, their numbers dwindled. David Marsich’s compelling account of their later history, however, stresses their steady commitment to their mission and their creative adaptations to changing circumstances rather than the standard narratives of decline and defeat.

Mystic Chords of Memory: Thoughts on the Impending Civil War Sesquicentennial by Glenn W. LaFantasie
The Civil War sesquicentennial is now upon us, and Glenn W. LaFantasie has provided a vivid introduction to it by discussing the profound impact of the conflict on Kentucky and the nation. He also points out the deep contrast between the terrible effect of the war on those who fought it and the degree to which it has been romanticized, both then and now.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What’s the Rush?

State focused on increasing the percentage
of college/career-ready graduates

Program Reviews in Accountability Scores
by 2012-13

This from Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday
at Dr H's Blog:
It was another interesting week in Kentucky. Two years of hard work culminated in the release of the Council of Chief State School Officers’ (CCSSO’s) guiding principles for next-generation accountability models and the request by Gov. Steve Beshear that Kentucky be allowed to utilize the Kentucky next-generation accountability model as a replacement for the out-of-date No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability model.

These activities met with a lot of support from teachers and administrators. The activities also were met with some skepticism. One statement that surprised me was a concern from a legislator that we were premature in our request. So, this blog provides a little background on why we are pushing hard to get a waiver approved before the start of the 2011-12 school year.

In April of 2009, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) began working very diligently to implement 2009’s Senate Bill 1. This bill required new standards, new assessments, a new accountability model and support for teachers. The deadline was the 2011-12 school year.

We have met the deadline with standards in English/language arts and mathematics, with science and social studies to come online within the next 12 months. We have met the deadline for assessments and the deadline for the accountability model. Over the past two years, we have provided multiple opportunities for feedback from teachers, principals, superintendents, parents and partners. Our work has been guided by the state assessment and accountability council and the national technical advisory panel. The Kentucky Board of Education has held numerous work sessions to receive and provide guidance on the development of the accountability model.

The next-generation student learning component is ready to go and will be implemented in 2011-12. The next-generation instructional programs and support (Program Reviews) will be implemented in 2011-12, with results from the Program Reviews added to the accountability scores in 2012-13. Next-generation professionals (effective teachers and principals) will be added in 2013-14, dependent on a statewide validity and reliability study.

Parallel to our state work on accountability, CCSSO has been working on Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization and the guiding principles for reauthorization and next-generation accountability models. The Kentucky work informed the CCSSO work and vice-versa. We have been very clear in numerous blogs, Fast Five e-mails, KBE meetings and stakeholder presentations that our first priority was reauthorization of ESEA; however, if ESEA was not authorized, we would move forward with a waiver request to replace NCLB accountability with the Kentucky model.

The Kentucky model is built upon the key components of NCLB (proficiency, graduation rate and gap). The Kentucky model adds the key components of student longitudinal growth and college/career readiness. The Kentucky model also is very innovative in adding the non-tested areas like art, music, humanities, career studies, practical living and writing through Program Reviews. The Kentucky model is an innovative model that is balanced and more rigorous in expectations than the NCLB model.

The announcement last week by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan that he would entertain requests for waiver if Congress was not able to reauthorize ESEA gave us some sense of urgency. When CCSSO announced the release of the next-generation accountability model this week, we believed it was perfect timing for Kentucky to move forward.

In a nutshell – the following provide the basis for Kentucky moving forward with our waiver request:
* Senate Bill 1 required a new accountability model for 2011-12.
* The KBE has approved (after much feedback and discussion) the next-generation accountability model.
* Kentucky educators overwhelmingly support having one accountability model, rather than having both state accountability and national accountability models. Having two accountability models has been very confusing.
* Moving to the Senate Bill 1 accountability model will focus our work in Kentucky on preparing students for college and careers in addition to current focus of NCLB (proficiency and gaps).
Educators need to know the rules of the game (accountability) prior to the start of the game (beginning of school year).
* The federal NCLB law is clear that states may propose waiver requests. By being early in the process, Kentucky can propose components that make sense in this state, rather than having the U.S. Department of Education establish rigid guidelines.

In March 2010, Kentucky became the first state to adopt the Common Core Standards. The same critics came out then and said our decision was premature and risky. Since that time, 44 states have joined Kentucky in adopting the standards. The same critics have surfaced over the accountability model. They say Kentucky is being premature, and our actions are risky. This week, CCSSO announced that 41 states support the guiding principles upon which the Kentucky model was built.

The eyes of the nation are certainly on Kentucky; however, the topic of interest to me is the goal of increasing the percentage of college/career-ready graduates from 34 percent to 67 percent by 2015. Over the coming weeks, I will be asking our partners and educators across Kentucky to express their support of the next-generation accountability model. It is time for us to present a position of strength. We need to prepare our children for the jobs of the future, and the Kentucky accountability model will do just that.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not Waiting for Superman

Former Kenton superintendent ready for next chapter

This from the Coshocton Tribune:
Though it's full of uncertainty, Tim Hanner says he is ready for the next phase of his life.

The superintendent of the Kenton County School District the past five years worked his last day Friday. He'll take a short vacation next week before getting a new kidney, likely to happen in the next few months.

Both of his kidneys will be removed and replaced with one from his brother, John.

"While the unknown is scary to think about, I'm also excited about it," Hanner said. "I'm looking forward to having more energy and feeling better."

Hanner was diagnosed in 2006 with chronic kidney failure, called focal sclerosis. It results from scar tissue forming on parts of the kidneys, making the filters useless. What causes it is often unknown, as was the case in Hanner's diagnosis.

Some people close to him suggested five years ago that he not take the job because of the disease, but he did, and with a goal of serving five years. He'd have stayed longer, but his kidneys are functioning below 20 percent. He would need to go on dialysis if they fall below 15 percent.

"I don't feel regret, but feel blessed," Hanner said. "As I've gone through my things and reflected on my time here, it's been good for me." ...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Diane Ravitch, the anti-Michelle Rhee

Michelle Rhee went from DCPS to national crusader.
Along the way, a 72-year old historian became her top critic

This from the Washington City Paper:
In the month of April, Diane Ravitch, the 72-year-old preeminent historian of American education, sent 1,747 tweets, an average of about 58 messages per day, many between the hours of 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

On May 20 alone, Ravitch tweeted 99 times to her 13,000 followers. Linking to the news of a D.C. Public Schools investigation into test tampering under former chancellor Michelle Rhee, she asked: “How can teachers be evaluated by student test scores, when the scores are so often manipulated and inaccurate?” Throughout the day, she mused on the shortcomings of standardized tests, whose ubiquity in American schools she has compared—with characteristic hyperbole—to “the Chinese cultural revolution.”

“Life’s problems do not translate into four possible answer[s],” she tweeted...
  • Ravitch...note[s] that President Obama, whose education policies she opposes, is given more time to prove himself—four years—than the average teacher, who usually gets two or three years to win tenure.
  • Somewhat improbably, this former education official from the first Bush administration has emerged as the most media-savvy progressive critic of the reform campaign embraced by everyone from Education Secretary Arne Duncan to billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates—a campaign that, in the public mind, is perhaps most associated with Rhee.
  • [H]er 13th book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System...was rejected by 15 publishers [before it] became a best seller.
  • Ravitch decided sometime around 2006 that there was actually no evidence that any of those policies improved American education. She now believes that the “corporatist agenda” of school choice, teacher layoffs, and standardized testing has undermined public respect for one of the nation’s most vital institutions, the neighborhood school, and for one of society’s most crucial professions: teaching. The best way to improve American education, the post-epiphany Ravitch argues, is to fight child poverty with health care, jobs, child care, and affordable housing.
  • Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter dubbed Ravitch the “Whittaker Chambers of school reform,” declaring her Gates’ “biggest adversary” for speaking out against the Microsoft founder’s efforts to bring corporate efficiency standards to public schools.
  • If her late emergence as a liberal hero strikes progressives as ironic, it infuriates the Rhee fans who dominate both the Obama administration and the GOP. Critics call Ravitch a self-promoter, an opportunist, and a scholar who picks evidence to support her conclusions, rather than vice versa—in other words, a lot of the same things Rhee’s critics say about her.
  • Ravitch was never purely a creature of the left. As the counterculture took root in the mid-1960s, she was busy with two all-consuming projects—motherhood ... and research on what would become her celebrated 1974 history of the New York City public schools, The Great School Wars. She was attracted to the topic because she was fascinated by the era’s battles between community-control advocates, teachers, administrators, and the United Federation of Teachers. It was black vs. Jew, organized labor vs. New Left. And, in Ravitch’s view, the era also involved too many misguided philanthropists “playing God in the ghetto” by supporting new-fangled identity-politics curricula at the expense of traditional liberal arts. Ravitch’s criticisms of that phenomenon yoked her to the conservative establishment, where right-leaning outfits like the Hoover Institution, the Olin Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute supported her work. She went on to spend 18 months in the first Bush administration and to produce another decade’s worth of policy writing in favor of introducing “competition” to education.
  • Ravitch claims she was swayed by peer pressure from the Washington free-market types she worked alongside at the Department of Education and then the Brookings Institution. “Having been immersed in a world of true believers, I was influenced by their ideas,” she writes in Death and Life. “I became persuaded.”
  • In 1983 she wrote a New Republic essay called “Scapegoating the Teachers” in which she noted that “it is comforting to blame teachers for the low state of education, because it relieves so many others of their own responsibility for years of educational neglect.”
  • Ravitch says she’s particularly offended by the suggestion—implicit in the media’s celebration of Teach for America, the organization that launched Rhee’s career—that perhaps teaching should not be a lifelong profession at all, but a bleeding-heart diversion for elite 20-somethings.
  • [T]here should be college loan forgiveness for people who become teachers. “Then you would have so many people applying to join this field that you could select the top 10 or 15 percent,” she says.
  • Ravitch became a go-to critic for anyone looking for a contrary opinion. The former DCPS chancellor made things pretty easy, giving Ravitch an opening to blast her for advising far-right governors like Rick Scott of Florida and Chris Christie of New Jersey. “Rhee maintains being bipartisan while being closely affiliated with the Tea Party governors,” Ravitch says. “The bipartisan agenda has become what used to be the GOP platform. I wonder if the Democratic Party will ever regain its sense about the importance of public education and equity.”
  • Ravitch was in Argentina in March when USA Today broke the news that half of all D.C. schools had likely corrected students’ mistakes on standardized tests. Nevertheless, she dashed off a column for The Daily Beast (where I am also a contributing writer). Rhee’s policy of tying pay to test scores, Ravitch wrote, had resulted in “cheating, teaching to bad tests, institutionalized fraud, dumbing down of tests, and a narrowed curriculum…
  • [A]n anonymous Twitter feed called “OldDianeRavitch,” opened in April, featuring a steady stream of hyperlinked free-market school reform arguments Ravitch once made, but now disclaims, such as: “NYC schools chancellor should have the power to close schools that consistently fail or engage in corrupt practices” and, “Without testing, there is no consistent way to measure success or failure.” The account was clearly a parody. But Ravitch pushed Twitter to shut it down as a violation of its anti-impersonation policy. The feed soon relaunched with the handle “NOTDianeRavitch.”

School News from Around Kentucky

Backpack tags, new radios part of JCPS plan for smoother school bus rides: Backpack tags to help get students on the correct buses. New bus radios to improve communication between drivers and district officials. And a more user-friendly Bus Finder website that maps bus stops. They are just a few of the changes Jefferson County Public Schools will introduce this fall as part of transportation fixes designed to avoid last year's problems, when some elementary students didn't arrive home until 9 p.m. on the first day of school. Superintendent Sheldon Berman and other staff members unveiled their more detailed transportation plan Monday to the Jefferson County Board of Education — as well as plans for implementing the new student-assignment boundaries for middle schools that will begin this fall. “We are months ahead of where we were last year at this time,” Berman said. “We are much better prepared for the start of the year.” (C-J)

Bullitt Central principal selected to attend leadership institute:  Christy Coulter has been an educator for 21 years and has led Bullitt Central High School for three years, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have more to learn about being a strong leader, she said. That's why she jumped at the chance to participate in a pilot class of the Leadership Institute for School Principals. The Kentucky Chamber Foundation chose Coulter and 47 other principals from public and private schools across the state to attend summer sessions at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C., as part of the institute. “This is a place where companies send their CEOs to learn about becoming better leaders, which is a pretty exciting opportunity in my mind,” Coulter said. Adkisson said his group chose the Center for Creative Leadership after researching effective training programs. He and many other Kentucky business leaders have attended the center's sessions in the past. “For me, it was a transformative experience,” he said. (C-J)

Principal Selection Moves Forward Under New Law:  The process to hire a new principal for Glasgow High School is moving forward quickly. Sean Howard, superintendent of Glasgow Independent Schools, met with the members of the GHS Site-Based Decision-Making Council on Monday afternoon to decide the evaluation criteria and interview questions for candidates for the position. Members elected Howard as chairperson and GHS teacher Mark Gibson as vice chair of the selection committee. Other members include parents, Charlotte Glass and Joan Norris, and teachers, Tara Martin and Susan Mills. (Glasgow Daily Times)

Groping case brings plea of not guilty from Trinity teacher:  A Trinity High School teacher pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge Wednesday after a male student reported being groped on the chest. Donald K. Switzer, 62, of Eastern Parkway, was arrested on a charge of harassment with physical contact Tuesday and arraigned Wednesday in Jefferson District Court. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jon Heck said the case involves a 15-year-old student and the alleged incident occurred in February. (Courier-Journal)

Marion Co Drug testing decision tabled:  There will not be student drug testing at Marion County High School, for now at least. In March, the board unanimously voted to adopt a resolution for a drug-testing program at MCHS for the 2011-12 school year. However, after discovering that the program would need additional funding and realizing the amount of additional work that could be involved and the potential problems that could arise, the board decided to hold off on making a decision. (Lebanon Enterp[rise by way of KSBA)

Trigg Co Sets End-of-Course Exams at 10%:  During the board’s first reading of the New and Revised Administrative Policies, Hamby and board members acknowledged that new testing benchmarks which will take effect next year will require some adjustments to current standards. “With the end-of-course exams that are being implemented at the high school level, one of the things that the commissioner … recommended to the state board is that those end-of-course exams count 20 percent of the student’s overall grade,” Hamby said. “We are a little concerned about that.” Hamby said they’re concerned because of new standards this year, and during discussion of those benchmarks, he suggested starting out with those end-of-course exams counting for 10 percent of the final grade. Hamby added that this change would give the district a chance to review the first round of new testing data and make curriculum adjustments with only a small impact on students’ final grades during the transition period. (Cadiz Record)

NAACP investigating hiring practices in Mercer schools:  The head of the local chapter of the NAACP says the group will investigate minority hiring practices in the Mercer County school district. In a letter sent last week to Mercer County Elementary School Principal Jennifer Meadows, the school board and interim superintendent Dennis Davis, Danville-Boyle County NAACP President Norman Bartleson said parents and residents had contacted him with concerns about the lack of diversity among the district’s faculty. The letter cites the lack of African-American representation at the elementary school in particular and refers specifically to a male African-American who had experience working in the district and came “highly recommended” but allegedly was overlooked for a position at the school. (Advocate Messenger)

Divided JCPS board chooses staffing overhaul for Knight Middle:  The Jefferson County Board of Education voted 4-2 ... to overhaul troubled Knight Middle School by replacing its staff, the same option it previously approved at the district’s other persistently-low achieving schools. Exactly how many teachers will be replaced, however, remains in question. Schools given the restaffing option are expected to replace at least half their faculty. However, Jefferson County has been making use of a state exception that exempts teachers hired in the past three years. Since 57 percent of Knight’s instructional staff has been hired since 2008, the district says it may not have to replace any teachers at the school. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has previously criticized the district for replacing too few teachers at its troubled schools and has said the waiver was meant to be used by schools already in the middle of a turnaround, adding that exempt teachers must have been hired specifically because they have the skills needed to help improve the schools. (C-J)

Quick Hits

Tips for using interactive whiteboards in lessons:  Teachers must develop interactive components to fully utilize interactive whiteboards and make lessons more engaging for students, suggests Alyssa Porter of DYMO/Mimio. Such content includes objectives that require student participation and opportunities for students to practice new skills, Porter offers. K-12 technology resources instructor Tracy Tishion also suggests that teachers need not create all-new lessons but build interactive components into existing lesson plans. (eSchool News)

Report - Technology improves schools, but implementation needs work:  Most teachers and school administrators say technology has a positive impact on education, but many differ in their satisfaction of how technology is implemented in their schools, according to a new report by the Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA. The report is based on a survey of 500 educators and administrators, who cited financial concerns as the biggest barriers to technology in education. (Digital Education blog)

Should teachers teach to the test?:  Teaching to the test has been unfairly dismissed, suggests schools consultant Ben Johnson, who writes in this blog post that teachers should tell students what information they will be tested on and the purpose of the tests. Ideally, Johnson writes, teachers and students will work together to meet rigorous standards set forth by standardized tests. He compares not teaching to the test to giving soccer players basic skills, such as kicking, but not telling them the rules of the game. (Edutopia)

Md. officials approve evaluation system for teachers, principals:  A new model for evaluating teachers and principals was approved Tuesday by officials in Maryland. The new system, which ties 50% of ratings to test scores and other measures of student achievement, will be piloted in seven school systems this fall. Input from the pilot will be used to refine the system before it's rolled out statewide in the 2012-13 school year. The system will be used to make decisions about tenure and layoffs beginning with the 2013-14 school year. (The Washington Post)

Ravitch - My reasons for joining the Save Our Schools march:  Education expert and blogger Diane Ravitch lists in this blog post her motivations for joining the upcoming Save Our Schools coalition march planned for July 30 in Washington, D.C. Among other things, Ravitch wants to protest federal policies that promote high-stakes testing, closing struggling schools and the privatization of public education. She also is participating to support the nation's educators, hoping the march will send a message to policymakers about the real successes of the country's public schools. (Bridging Differences blog)

Spending plans for $100M schools gift draw skepticism in Newark, N.J.:  Plans for spending a $100 million gift from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to Newark, N.J., public schools remain in development as residents question how the donation will be used to benefit students. "Folks are having an issue with the transparency, and they're having an issue with trust," parent and PTA member Lucious Jones said. Issues of concern include proposals to privatize low-performing schools and questions about whether the money will be used to fund charter schools, a suggestion refuted by Mayor Cory Booker. (NPR)

Newsweek uses new methodology to determine top high schools:  Two Dallas magnet schools took the top two spots in Newsweek magazine's annual rankings of the country's public high schools, which were revamped this year to include additional measures beyond the number of AP tests that graduates had taken. To determine this year's list, Newsweek consulted education experts to develop six factors for rating schools, including graduation rates, college matriculation rates and average SAT/ACT scores. (U.S. News & World Report)

Teacher-tenure ceremonies in N.Y. state are marred by layoffs:  The awarding of teacher tenure for educators with two to three years of experience across New York state is coinciding with the layoffs of 11,000 teachers because of cuts in state funding. Many of those being granted tenure are also those facing layoffs because of seniority rules. "Nearly all of these will be highly-educated, dedicated young people who have devoted their schooling and careers to their students and now see themselves tossed to the unemployment line," state teachers union spokesman Carl Korn said. (The Buffalo News)

Statewide district proposed to run Detroit's lowest-performing schools:  Michigan leaders -- joined by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan -- proposed on Monday the creation of a new school district comprised of low-performing schools that will be operated by teachers and principals. The Education Achievement System will include 34 struggling Detroit schools at first, but eventually include schools from across the state, officials said. Schools also must remain with the new authority for at least five years. The reforms, announced Monday, would be implemented in 2012 if aspects of the plan are approved by the state legislature. (Detroit Free Press), (and here) (The Wall Street Journal)

Duncan eyes waivers on NCLB rules:  If Arne Duncan wants it done, he may have to do it himself. The education secretary told reporters on Monday he’s working on a “Plan B” to free states from the heavy-handed mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act if Congress can’t pass an overhaul bill by the administration’s August deadline. The proposal, the details of which are still being hashed out, would give states waivers from NCLB regulations if they demonstrate significant reforms. Mr. Duncan said new legislation is still the preferred method, but, with more than 80 percent of schools projected to “fail” this year under NCLB, he said the law is “creating a slow-motion train wreck for children, parents and teachers.” Plan A is to have Congress move … if they don’t, we will,” he said. (Washington Times)

Appeals court rules MySpace parodies protected by First Amendment:  The Third Circuit Court of Appeals today held that two Pennsylvania students who created MySpace profiles making fun of their school principals were protected by the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, and could not be punished by their school districts. ... In each case, the students had created the fake online profiles outside of school, one on her parents' computer and the other on his grandmother's computer. "The one clear rule that emerges from today's opinions is that school officials' authority to punish kids for saying offensive and critical things off campus is limited," said Witold Walczak, who argued both of the cases and is legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. (Post Gazette)

NYC delays in special-education placement blamed on computer system:  New York City's new special-education computer system is being blamed for a delay in placing about 2,500 incoming kindergarten students with special needs, which could compel the district to pay thousands in tuition for private-school placements. The system, which has cost the district $79 million, was meant to ease the process by which services were delivered to students, but some say it has been plagued with problems from insufficient bandwidth in some schools to inadequate training for employees. (Daily News)
D.C. uses videotaped classroom lessons to screen teacher candidates:  The Washington, D.C., school system is using 360-degree digital video cameras to record teacher applicants conducting sample lessons, so district officials can review their performance as well as students' reactions. While more districts are using such videos as professional-development tools, the district is one of just a few using the technology to screen job candidates. "We would like to be one of the elite places to teach in America and for people to know that you've got to be really good to teach" in D.C. Public Schools, district official Jason Kamras said. (The Washington Post)
Ore. considers limiting testing of students:  A bill that would require the development of guidelines for Oregon schools on standardized testing -- to ensure testing does not diminish instructional time or harm the curriculum -- has received legislative approval and now awaits the governor's signature. Under current guidelines, Oregon students may take computerized tests up to three times each to help schools improve their ratings. "That means less time for students to work on areas they need to improve on," teacher Dena Hellums said. "The students get really burnt out on it, too." (The Oregonian)
Why parents should be held accountable for student success:  Former Los Angeles teacher Walt Gardner considers in this blog post legislative proposals in some states that would hold parents more accountable for their children's success in school. Whether or not they pass, such bills acknowledge even the best teachers cannot make progress with students who are chronically absent or whose parents are detached or uninvolved in their education, he writes. (Reality Check blog)
Study finds achievement gap persists for Hispanic students:  Hispanic students have made significant gains on National Assessment of Educational Progress tests in math and reading since 1990, but a wide achievement gap between Hispanic students and their white counterparts remains, a new federal study released today shows. The National Center for Education Statistics found more improvement among English-speaking Hispanic students, suggesting that language proficiency may be playing a role in the findings. (Education Week)
Research - Home learning environment affects children's school skills:  A five-year study that followed more than 1,850 low-income children and their mothers suggests that home learning environment is an indicator of children's readiness to go to school, with children whose home learning environment scores were consistently low much more likely to suffer language and literacy skill delays at pre-kindergarten than those who had high home learning scores. Factors such as cognitive abilities of children during infancy and family's household income also predicted a child's early learning experiences, according to the study in the journal Child Development. (U.S. News & World Report), (United Press International)
Challenges mount to Colorado district's voucher plan:  Two lawsuits were filed this week over the Douglas County, Colo., district's plans to provide taxpayer-funded vouchers for students to attend private schools. The Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and others believe such plans violate the separation of church and state by allowing the vouchers to be used at religious schools. District officials say they want to give parents greater choice in determining the best schools for their children. (The Denver Post), (and here)

New Study Questions Validity of Two Parts of ACT

This from Ed Week:
The validity of the ACT in predicting college success has come under scrutiny in a new paper out by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
The study, Improving College Performance and Retention the Easy Way: Unpacking the ACT Exam, by Eric P. Bettinger, Brent J. Evans, and Devin G. Pope, suggests that two of the four sub tests of the ACT, English and mathematics, are highly predictive of positive college outcomes, while the other two, science and reading, provide little or no additional predictive power.
Colleges rely on the ACT exam in their admission decisions to increase their ability to differentiate between students likely to succeed and those that have a high risk of under-performing and dropping out. We show that two of the four sub tests of the ACT, English and Mathematics, are highly predictive of positive college outcomes while the other two subtests, Science and Reading, provide little or no additional predictive power. This result is robust across various samples, specifications, and outcome measures. We demonstrate that focusing solely on the English and Mathematics test scores greatly enhances the predictive validity of the ACT exam.
Officials at the ACT, based in Iowa City, Iowa, maintain the test is supported by decades of research.

Holliday seeks local support for state’s request to replace NCLB AYP with new system

Seeks “fresh start” for school progress efforts
with 2011-12 academic year

This from Brad Hughes at KSBA:
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday Wednesday called on school leaders to quickly and strongly back Gov. Steve Beshear’s request to replace federal No Child Left Behind progress standards with those in the state’s new accountability model “or you’ll be telling me that you support dual systems.”

Speaking in Lexington at the opening session of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents summer conference, Holliday said opposition has begun to the waiver request that he and the governor made in a letter sent to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“I need you all to come out strong that you support our waiver request. The push-back began this morning. Don’t let us get caught in a political issue here,” Holliday said.

“I’ve been telling you all year long I would request a waiver to eliminate AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress – the multiple measurements schools must achieve under NCLB) in Kentucky. Some folks in the General Assembly don’t think I’ve said that, but I’m on record many places.”

Almost since the passage of NCLB nine years ago, educators nationally have criticized the part of the law that requires schools and districts to reach every one of the student subgroups, or be labeled as failing. In Kentucky, the state accountability system, formerly known as CATS, created a second measurement that led to much confusion among parents when schools drew high ratings for progress under CATS, but received a “fails to meet” on the NCLB yardsticks.

“We could keep running two systems (but) I don’t know anybody in this room who was happy with AYP,” Holliday said. “If we continue and you don’t make real significant improvement, 82 percent to 87 percent of your districts won’t make AYP, 65 percent of schools will not make AYP.

“My choice as commissioner was to run two systems, and I didn’t think you wanted that. I thought you wanted me to move forward with one accountability system that was more fair and more balanced and we get a fresh start. That’s what I promised you. This coming school year is a fresh start.

“I need your voice to be unified in your community and in the state that you support our waiver request,” Holliday told the superintendents, adding he would be making the same request to KSBA, the Kentucky Association of School Administrators and other education groups.

KASS President Stu Silberman said he expected the superintendents at the conference would mull over the commissioner’s request, and determine whether to take action on Friday at the conference business meeting.

During his remarks, Holliday also confirmed that Kentucky will be applying for both segments of new federal Race to the Top funds. The Obama administration has allocated $500 million to support early childhood development programs and another $200 million for school innovation efforts – the latter eligible only to Kentucky and eight other states that were unfunded finalists in a much larger Race to the Top program last year.

“Kentucky will definitely compete. Those (early childhood) dollars could become available as early as January to coordinate statewide kindergarten readiness assessments,” Holliday said. “We’ll pull a team together to apply by September and we’ll be on a quick turnaround for feedback from your districts.”

The KASS summer conference continues through Friday morning in Lexington.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Justices Decline to Hear Pledge of Allegiance Challenge

This from the School Law Blog:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up another challenge to school-led recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance.

The justices declined without comment to consider a federal appeals court decision that upheld a New Hampshire law requiring schools to set aside time daily for students to voluntarily recite the Pledge.

The case was one of two in which the lawyer and activist Michael A. Newdow has challenged school recitations of the Pledge because of the inclusion of the words "under God."

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, in Boston, had ruled in November that the New Hampshire requirement does not violate the First Amendment's prohibition against government establishment of religion or other provisions of the U.S. Constitution...

CCSSO Releases Roadmap for Accountability

This from Politics K-12:
Right on the heels of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's announcement that it might be time to consider, maybe, possibly offering a package of waivers to states on aspects of the No Child Left Behind Act, 40 states and the District of Columbia have announced a new "accountability road map."

The roadmap has been in the works for a year and a half, long before the department's announcement. It is basically a list of principles and parameters that state schools chiefs think should be included in accountabilty systems, ideally through the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.

These "next-generation" accountability systems would include the establishment of college-and-career-ready standards, the measurement of graduation rates, and a requirement that states help build district and school capacity to turnaround the lowest-performing schools. Schools would be given more detailed feedback than just making or not making progress under the law.

And if Congress doesn't act, the Council of Chief State School Officers says that states will begin proposing their own, new accountability models based on the roadmap.

The idea is basically to flood the department with a host of waiver requests that all fall along similar lines.

Right now, state waiver requests are "coming from different perspectives", said Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of CCSSO. "We're going to come to the department with a set of waviers that will come en masse ... under a [similar] set of principles." ...
Kentucky was first away from the gate.

Wilhoit said that folks should disabuse themselves of the idea that this is an attempt by states to wiggle out of accountability. He said the roadmap would "maintain strong accountability," which would actually be "at a higher level" than under NCLB.

"There's tremendous frustration in this field that we've about ridden this horse as much as we can ride it," he said of the current law.

What Not To Ask NJ Gov Christie

Hat tip to Russo.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gov. Beshear Seeks Flexibility for No Child Left Behind Act

Governor, Education Commissioner want
Kentucky’s accountability model to be the standard

FRANKFORT,Ky. (June 20, 2011) –Calling state authority and autonomy critical components of educationimprovement, Governor Steve Beshear and Education Commissioner Terry Holliday today called on the U.S. Department of Education for flexibility in public school accountability under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.
The Governor sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking to replace the public school accountability portions of the federal law with Kentucky’s ownmodel. Kentucky is the first state to request the change.

“I believe that federal law should set high expectations for education goals, but grant power and judgment to states and districts with regard to the means of achieving those goals,” said Gov. Beshear.“Kentucky has been a leader in this area, as the first state to adopt the Common Core Academic Standards and in the Kentucky Board of Education’supcoming approval of a rigorous accountability model. I want this state to continue as a leader on the national level.”

Holliday agreed that Kentucky is in a position to provide more rigorous educational experience for its public school students because of its work in testing andaccountability.

“Providing us with the flexibility to use our own accountability model for NCLB purposes will support our focus of college and/or career readiness for all students,” he said.

The main component of Kentucky’s proposed accountability model is incorporated into state regulation (703 KAR 5:200), which was approved by the Kentucky Board of Education in April. The remaining elements will be considered for final approval by the board at its August 3-4 meeting.

The full model is a balanced approach that incorporates all aspects of school and district work and is organized around the Kentucky Board of Education’s four strategic priorities: next-generation learners, next-generation professionals, next-generation support systems and next-generation schools/districts.

Along with 42 other states,Kentucky is part of the Next-Generation State Accountability Systems Taskforce,which is supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

The Council of Chief StateSchool Officers established the Next-Generation State Accountability Taskforce in summer 2010 to solidify the commitment of states to building public schoolaccountability systems focused on college and career readiness. Kentucky hasbeen an early participant in this work and is the first to adopt a next-generation accountability model that can serve as a prototype for other states.

This taskforce is focused on furthering states’ leadership in promoting college‐ and career‐readiness for all students by developing and implementing improved accountability systems. Today, CCSSO released a Statement of Principles to which states involved in the taskforce have committed for designing school and district accountability systems:

· Align performance goals for all schools anddistricts to college‐and career‐readystandards.
· Make meaningful annual accountabilitydeterminations for all schools and districts.
· Focus initial determinations on studentoutcomes, including status and growth.
· Continue to disaggregate data by group, forreporting and accountability.
· Report timely, actionable, accessible data toall stakeholders, including outcomes and richer data to drive continuousimprovement.
· Promote deeper diagnostic reviews, asappropriate, to better link accountability determinations to meaningfulsupports and interventions.
· Build district and school capacity for sustained improvement.
· Target specifically lowest-performing schools for significant interventions.
· Promote innovation, evaluation and continuous improvement in accountability systems over time.

While states agree to adhere tothe principles outlined above, each state will design its own accountabilitysystem that is valid, useful and legitimate in each state's individual context.

The taskforce has designed a comprehensive Roadmap on Next‐Generation State Accountability Systems, written by states for states to guide building accountability systems centered on preparing all students for success in college and career. The guide will assist states in building accountability systems that adhere to the principles developed by the taskforce while alsoconforming to each state's unique context.

As NCLB (also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) nears reauthorization, CCSSO has asked the U.S. Congress to codify the principles of next‐generation accountability systems, while leaving discretion to states to design the details of the systems and to promote continuous improvement over time.

NCLB was passed in 2001 and requires states to test students annually in reading and mathematics.

The results of these tests are reported in terms of the percentages of students performing at proficient orhigher levels, and those percentages (along with other factors) are used to determine whether schools and districts have made adequate yearly progress (AYP). Under NCLB, schools and districts funded by the federal Title I program may be subject to consequences if they do not make AYP.

SOURCE: The Gov's Press Release

C-J's Q & A with Donna Hargens

The Courier-Journal reported this weekend that as a student growing up in Milwaukee, the high expectations that Donna Hargens' teachers set for her inspired her to become an educator herself.

Now, after working 30 years to raise student achievement in the Wake County, N.C., Public School System, the new superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools says she wants to pass on those same high expectations to the 99,000 students attending the district's 155 schools.

The Courier-Journal - whose editorial Board was sufficiently critical of the JCPS superintendent finalists that they called for a new search - asked Hargens to discuss the key issues that will now confront her when she takes the helm in Louisville.

These excerpts from the interview by Toni Konz at C-J:
QUESTION: First of all, congratulations on being named the next superintendent of JCPS. When we talked Tuesday night, you told me that it was important for you to start Aug. 1, so that you would be in Louisville in time for the start of the new school year. Why is that so important to you?

ANSWER: I am honored to be the next superintendent of JCPS. My husband and I are thrilled to become members of your community.

The start of a new year is an exciting time for staff, students, parents, the Board of Education and the community. A great start sets the tone for the year... I will also review the plans for the first day of school and will be knowledgeable about the plan. I want to be there before the opening and to be in the schools on Day 1 to kick-off the new school year.
Q: What drew you to a career in education? Did you always know you would be an educator?
A: I remember the moments when teachers inspired me through their expectations of me...
Q: Where would you rather be — analyzing test scores in your office or speaking to a room full of teachers?

A: I would rather be in a room speaking with teachers...

Q: How visible do you plan on being in Jefferson County's schools? Do you plan on visiting each school within a certain period of time? What is your plan for doing that?

A: I hope that you will hold me accountable for being visible not only in the schools but in the community as well...

Q: How does Jefferson County Public Schools' academic achievement stack up against other comparable school districts around the country?

A: This is a school system and a community that is not satisfied and should not be satisfied with the current level of achievement. Helping students to grow academically is the reason that a school system exists. It is the core mission...
Q: What's the best way to improve academic performance at Jefferson County's lowest-performance schools, and how long do you think it will take to substantially improve them?

A: Improvement takes discipline and a focused effort over time. The keys are being able to effectively answer three questions: What is it that students are expected to know? How do we know if they know it? What do we do if they do know it or don't know it? ...

Q: What role should the teachers'union play in setting the course for improving Jefferson County schools?

A: It is imperative that the teachers' union and the administration work collaboratively with a focus on what's best for students. ...Teachers are the variable that can make the most difference...
Q: Should JCPS be trying more than one option for fixing the district's persistently low-achieving schools? So far, the remedy has been to restaff the schools and move out the principal.

A: I think that it is fair to say that all four turnaround options (restaffing, closing the school, turning it over to outside management or tying teacher evaluations to student performance) are worthy of consideration. … and deserve that. I need to take time to do my homework on this issue...
Q: Have you had the chance to review the programs and initiatives Dr. Berman has brought to JCPS? Which ones do you plan to keep, and which will you end? How will you review those programs?

A: I read a lot about JCPS before arriving in Louisville...I look forward to learning more, to looking at the data and to listening to the perspectives of students, teachers, principals, parents, the school board, the business community and other stakeholders.

Q: Do you support using merit pay or incentives to reward good teachers? Why or why not?

A: It is important to understand what teachers consider to be an incentive and to understand what it takes to retain high-quality teachers and to provide consistent high-quality instruction...I need to learn about the history of merit pay and incentives in Jefferson County and in Kentucky.

Q: In The Courier-Journal's earlier profile of you, a principal in Wake County described you as “data-driven.” Are you an advocate for using test scores and other data to evaluate teachers and schools? Why or why not?

A: I am data-driven. In order to improve, you have to know where you are starting from. When doing any kind of an evaluation, it is important to look at multiple measures and data points.

Q: Some have criticized Wake County's disciplinary policies as discriminatory against African American students. The same criticism has been made of Jefferson County. Why do you think African Americans are so often disciplined out of proportion to their actual numbers not only those school districts, but in many school districts nationwide? How do you think school districts should handle discipline?

A: When you look at the data and you see trends that are disturbing...Both looking at the policies and the implementation of those policies are keys to improvement...
Q: Can you envision there ever being a situation where you would publicly take a stand against a position taken by a majority of the school board? If so, what would that situation be? If not, why not?

A: I cannot speculate on a particular situation where I might take such a stand...
Q: Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams has proposed legislation that would mandate that school districts allow parents to send their children to neighborhood schools — those closest to their home. What is your position on that idea?

A: Local school boards are entrusted with the responsibility to make decisions regarding student assignment. Decisions are best made by the officials who are closest to the situation. A student-assignment plan should not take the district back to a time when all students did not have the same educational experiences and opportunities.

Q: What is your timeline for reaching a decision on whether you support the current student assignment plan?

A: There is a student assignment plan in place for 2011-12. The staff is committed to a successful implementation of that plan. Dr. Gary Orfield (a leading desegregation expert hired as a school board consultant) will be making recommendations for any modifications to the plan for the 2012-13 school year...
Q: Should the superintendent's annual performance review be public? The public still doesn't know precisely why your predecessor was let go because it was done behind closed doors.

A: Personnel issues are confidential and should be treated as such...

Q: Were you surprised by the negative reaction you received from some groups and organizations in Louisville? Have you experienced that before?

A: I respect people's opinions and respect their right to express them. What this demonstrated to me was that this is a community that passionately cares about the education of JCPS students...
Q: How will you reach out to those who appear to have doubts about whether you are the right person to lead JCPS?

A: I look forward to meeting with them and to listening to them...
Q: What would the community here be surprised to know about you? What are your talents and hobbies? If you had a weekend where you could do anything you wanted to do, what would you do?

A: I ran a 3K in May in Washington, D.C., this past May with my son, my daughter and my daughter's boyfriend. My goal now is to run a 5K.

I love to attend community and school-sponsored events on weekends. I can't imagine a Sunday morning without attending a service...